From 2012 to 2015, Josh Rogers was the chief organizer of Detroit City’s defense and was instrumental in holding the back four together. In the wake of his retirement, his absence was evident last year. City allowed the second-most goals of any team in their division (21), only ahead of last-place Dayton (27). That may be more of an indictment on the team as a whole rather than any one position in particular, but centerbacks are the heart of the defense and fixing the problem begins with them. Both of last year’s starters return, but they will have to fight off a group of promising new players if they are to keep their jobs.
Now entering his fourth season with City, Seb Harris is a regular starter who’s taken over from Rogers to become de facto leader of the back four. His height (6’3”) and timing make him one of the best headers of the ball in the league, and he has good speed and athleticism for someone his size. This is never more on display than when he makes runs forward while playing out on the right:
Go ahead and pencil him in at one spot for now, but he’ll have to maintain a high level of play throughout the season in order to stay there.
There was much disappointment amongst supporters when the initial round of roster announcements was made and Omar Sinclair was not included. It all worked out in the end, though, as Sinclair is now officially back with the club for his second season. In 2016 he started 10 matches and led the team in minutes played with 903. Though not as large or imposing as Harris, he showed great recovery speed and looked pretty comfortable when playing the ball out of the back.
He did seem a little overmatched at times last year when going up against bigger, more physical strikers, but for someone coming off of his freshman season at Saginaw Valley, he performed admirably. Having another year of growth and development in college should pay dividends this summer. Just like Seb, he will face much more competition than he did last year thanks to the addition of three experienced newcomers.
The most well-known to people in this area is probably Zach Bock, a product of Catholic Central and Western Michigan. He’s been a three-year starter for the Broncos and as a junior this past fall, he was named First-Team All-MAC. Most of his videos are actually football highlights from his time at CC, but I did find this one:
I doubt any teams on the schedule will let him just walk in and take a free shot like that, but it’s a nice trait to have. He’s the co-shortest centerback on the team at 6’0” (tied with Sinclair), but in watching Saturday’s friendly against Dayton, it’s evident that he’s a physical player who won’t back down from a challenge. His athleticism could pair nicely with a taller player who’s an aerial presence, such as Harris…
…or 6’5” Owain Hoskins, a native of Southampton who’s only slightly smaller than the ship that was launched from there about a hundred years ago. He started out his career and spent much of his youth at the Southampton FC Academy – the same one that produced Gareth Bale and a host of other current and former professionals. Hoskins came over from England to enroll at St. Edward’s University, and in the last two years has become one of the best players in the nation at the D-II level. He’s a two-time Third-Team All-American (2015-16), an all-conference performer (First-Team in 2015, Second-Team in 2016), and in 2015 was named the Heartland Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
This position preview wouldn’t be complete without an outdated youth-team video, so here you go:
He’ll have every opportunity to win a starting job, but even if he doesn’t, his size makes him an asset in late-match situations where City needs an extra target up top or another defender to deal with crosses and set pieces.
Stephen Carroll is listed last here, but I think he has just as good a chance of starting as any of the other four. He hails from Cork, Ireland, plays collegiately at Davenport University (Grand Rapids), and checks in at a solid 6’1”, 175. There’s a good amount of tape on him, and I really like what it shows:
He plays with aggression but isn’t reckless, is smart when it comes to reading the situation, and doesn’t shy away from challenges. This double goal line clearance wasn’t bad either:
I may be biased in his favor because he has video to analyze while Bock and Hoskins don’t, but he’s my sleeper favorite to earn one of the starting spots. He’s exactly the type of player City needs to shore up its defense.
When the 2016 roster was announced last spring, I was expecting and hoping for four or maybe five centerbacks to be announced, but instead there were only three. After Andre Morris left midway through the season, just Seb Harris and Omar Sinclair remained. While they did their best given the circumstances, there should’ve been a couple more guys in the rotation to at least give them a breather from time to time.
As with striker, I’m happy with how the position has been reloaded, though. We all know what Seb and Omar bring to the table, and there’s a nice mix of size, experience, and collegiate success among the three new players. Expect to see a lot of rotation early as Ben Pirmann tries to find the best pairing. Even after that happens, there shouldn’t be much of a drop-off when the other players step in.
One Reason to Be Excited 🙂
No filler. Every single centerback looks like a starting-caliber player. No matter which two end up seeing the greater share of playing time, the middle of the back line should be a strength. Having this true depth will pay off big-time, particularly on the Friday/Sunday two-match weekends when player rotation is a necessity.
One Reason to Worry 🙁
If indeed a new partnership emerges, it will take some time before Player X and Player Y learn each other’s game and become comfortable together. With the compressed NPSL season, the importance of every match is amplified. If there are defensive struggles early in the season and City drops points because of this, there are only so many opportunities to recover and get into a position to make the playoffs.
Player to Watch
I kind of gave it away earlier, but I’m a big proponent of Stephen Carroll from what I saw in his film and in the preseason. I know I shouldn’t base my opinions on such a small sample of evidence, especially without having seen much of Bock or literally anything of Hoskins (other than the outdated video above), but this is SPORTS so why the heck not? I think Carroll emerges to become a starter, but I expect all the other centerbacks to see plenty of action as well.